St. Raymond Parish in Fall Creek and St. Mary Parish in Altoona
Father Sakowski reflects on the impact adoration can have — not just personally, but in a community
I love eucharistic adoration. I’ve always found it to be the case that the more time I spend in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, the more meaningful the Mass becomes, and the more intense my desire for Him becomes. I’ve come to learn over the years that God works through our holy desires. The greater our desire, the more capacity we have to receive His gifts. I have always found adoration to be an excellent means of stirring up those longings within my heart.
Eucharistic adoration also seems to energize Catholic institutions. I remember back in 2003, when I was a newly ordained priest entering a tough situation at Pacelli High School. I now have many fond memories of the staff and students there. But at the time, they had really been going through a rough patch, and I was nervous going in. I knew the Lord would have to sustain me.
One of the parishioners suggested that we have weekly adoration in the Pacelli chapel. So we did — from 8 a.m to 8 p.m every Thursday throughout the school year. At first, it was parishioners coming in to pray for the students and staff; eventually, we were able to invite staff, parents and students to join in.
The difference was palpable. There were days when I could feel the protection and healing that our Lord was extending throughout the school.It was a sacrifice for me to be at the school every Thursday evening to preside at Benediction, but always a highlight of my week. One family would bring their children to join in. We sang the Tantum Ergo in Latin and used plenty of incense. By the end of the year, little Andrew (who was 3 at the time) could sing all the words of both verses! He may not have understood the Latin, but he was drawn into the holiness of the moment, and very much understood that it was Jesus Himself who was blessing him when I picked up the monstrance and made the sign of the cross. There is nothing like the faith of a child to inspire our own faith.
As a pastor, I have continued to notice the transforming power of the Eucharist in people’s lives. Each Easter in our two parishes, we have 6-12 people receive sacraments through our RCIA program. It amazes me how many times people say that they “felt drawn” to the Catholic Church because, while at Mass or while praying in the church, they experienced a presence, something attracting them to come nearer. In time, every time, they come to appreciate that the attraction they feel is a hunger for the Eucharist. Adoration is especially powerful for those preparing to enter the Church, because they cannot yet receive holy Communion. By making regular visits, they find their spiritual hunger greatly increased, and the moment of receiving Our Lord becomes that much more meaningful.
At St. Raymond Parish, it has become an annual tradition to kick off Lent with the 40 Hours Devotion — starting the evening of Ash Wednesday and concluding prior to our first fish fry (both events are worth visiting, if you’ve never been to St. Raymond Parish!). I find it so moving to drive up the hill of this country church at 3 a.m and spend an hour with our Lord, sometimes with three or four other adorers. I have definitely noticed the deepening prayerful spirit amidst our people since we started the 40 Hours. Adoration may not be an end in itself, but it surely opens our hearts to receive the fruits of the Eucharist.